His cricket bat lies abandoned in the corner of the small courtyard in front of his home in downtown Nowhatta. His bicycle too stands there; it is covered with a brown cloth. He would ride it to fetch bread and vegetables from the market. Not now. Faisal Showkat Dar is dead. He was killed. He was 17.
Faisal was shot on August 12 during a massive pro-freedom protest at Baghi-Mehtab in the city outskirts. A bullet from a troopers’ gun pierced Faisal’s left side of abdomen. Hot blood gushed forth from the gaping bullet wound and wet the tarmac. His t-sheet’s colour too had changed to scarlet. In the background, youth raised their fists in the air and shouted pro-freedom slogans. He bled profusely. He died in hospital the next day amid prayers by his mother and aunts.
“It feels hollow,” says his uncle Imtiyaz Ahmed. “He was a child. He was innocent.”
As he speaks, the cramped room is filled with murmurs and sobs. Faisal’s aunts and other relatives have entered the room and are talking among themselves, their right hands folded into fists and held to their mouth. Everybody’s eyes are moist. In a corner of the room, the television set is covered with a grey shawl. Maybe because nobody watches cricket now. Faisal loved cricket.
Faisal’s mother Nazima Showkat fiddles with the gold ring in her finger, her eyes filled with tears, her chin quivering. “It feels as if I am scratching a wound every time I think of Faisal.” She sobs, “I wish he had not gone to Baghi-Mehtab on the fateful day.” Baghi-Mehtab houses his nanihal (maternal home). Faisal had gone there on Saturday, August 9, 2008. “My god, he was a gentle son.”
Kashmir lost more than 50 gentle sons who were shot dead by the army and police during the recent massive peaceful protests.
The transfusion of 26 points didn’t help save Faisal’s life. It didn’t possibly suffice the blood that he had imbued the road with. He died on the hospital bed while the blood drops dripped through the tube into his skin.
Faisal was an eleventh class Commerce student at S.P. Higher Secondary School. Cricket and friends were his life. He would come from his school, throw down his bag in the kitchen, take lunch and rush to play cricket with his friends. “Now nobody would play cricket here,” Nazima says and the room breaks into wails and moans. His father, Haji Showkat Ahmed Dar is looking at the covered up TV all the time. Only his eyes are dry.
He speaks for the first time in a quivering voice. “Faisal was an obedient boy, (Aulad-e-salihah).” His voice chokes, he swallows, he looks down and speaks again, “He would do nothing without my permission.” The tangled wires on the electric pole outside the house are visible from the grilled window. The room is hushed once again.
At his maternal uncle’s home at Chadoora, Baghi-Mehtab, Faisal was oblivious to the bloodbath on the streets. He was playing cricket with his cousin Raju. It was August 11, the day of Muzaffarabad Chalo call. Later in the evening, having dinner with Raju, he asks, “Why are they killing people?” Nobody had an answer. They ate their food and went to sleep.
More than (-----) people were killed on August 11, 2008.
On the morning of August 12, Faisal hears slogans outside the house at Baghi-Mehtab. They grow louder and louder. The previous day’s events had stirred something inside him. Maybe the seed of the question that he had planted needed an answer. He leaves his salt-tea and the bread behind. He dares to venture out. Wearing a worn-out slipper, he scurries from the backdoor to join the protesters, to find answers. He never came back. He never will.
“Only a mother can understand this pain,” Nazima says. “This Eid will be different for us. Without Faisal how will I live?”
A suffocating silence descends upon the room.